Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Cathedral School, Cardiff

The Cathedral School, Llandaff is a coeducational independent day prep school located in Llandaff, Cardiff and has many links to Llandaff Cathedral.

Music at the Cathedral School is very strong, with many pupils at Grade 8 standard. The music department is housed in the impressive state-of-the-art Jubilee building. There are also specialist teachers for 20 different instruments. There are numerous school groups as well, including school orchestra, swing band and chamber choir.

The Head of Music, Michael Hoeg, asked me to come for a full day and it proved to be a very enjoyable day. Here he is (on the right) with the school’s Head of Brass:

Cathedral school music staff

I started with some master classes with students – pieces from the Concert Collections as well as Microjazz were played by a variety of instrumentalists (solo piano included) They all performed very well and it was clear how a comprehensive programme of instrumental tuition really can pay off!

I then worked with year 9 GCSE composition students, with students from other years sitting in. I got the students to get some ideas going on the spot, using their computers to notate their ideas as best they could. I then took those ideas and suggested various ways they could be developed, including ad hoc arrangements for the whole group to join in on. Here’s one of my cheerful composition students at the end of the session:

After lunch, I talked to a smaller group called the Scholars’ Society about my life as a composer. This group has talks from various visiting luminaries – I think I may have been their first music composer!

Finally, I did a workshop on improvisation, using pieces from American Popular Piano. This featured students who were very new to improvising in the main and they did very well. I also jammed with a student who had already done quite a bit of improvising and he found it particularly useful to have his ideas analysed and reined in somewhat – the result proved to be very satisfying for him as well as for the audience. This was a very stimulating end to a fun day. Here is my star improviser at work:

Cathedral school improvisation student

This was an excellent template for day in a school – master classes, work on composition, a talk on my life as a composer and an improvisation session. As Michaek Hoeg said to me in a subsequent email:

Thank you so much for coming to work with us yesterday. I have had a great many positive comments from both students and staff and, speaking personally, I learned a great deal myself. I hope that one day you will be able to come and see us again.

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